torstai 13. maaliskuuta 2008

Memories of Minesweeping

keskiviikko 12. maaliskuuta 2008

Toilet Etiquette Weekly, ep. 1

Once upon a time ran into a photo of a college dorm hallway on the Something Awful forums. I didn't preserve the photo, but traced a vector image from the salient element in it: an instructional plaque next to a bathroom door. The image haunted me from time to time, as I browsed past it in my images folder:

It always caused my mind to silently scream out a barrage of WH words, but I ignored the impulse to look into the matter.


I recently finished Pekka Virkamäki's book, Arka ja ahdas ismi (roughly translated: A Timid and Constricted Ism). Virkamäki was involved in the Hare Krishna movement for almost 15 years, vascillating between almost leaving the cult and ending up in high ranking positions. The book is his account on how he came into his faith, relished it, but eventually felt estranged, constrained, and left it behind. It's an excellent read presented in a respectable manner: the gloves are off, but there's really no vitriol, just observational and self-reflective explication.

The high point in the book for me was to be able to connect the above picture into a sensible context. Devout Hare Krishnas aim to lead an extremely ascetic life, abstaining from all earthly indulgences and comforts. Lush mattressess: evil. Recliners: evil. Toilet bowls: not that evil but you might want to emulate evacuating your bowels into a hole in the ground to feel better about yourself. This also prepares the Hare Krishnas for their inevitable visits to India and temples therein, where the invading western style toilet bowls have not yet replaced the indigenous population.

The dorm the plaque was in had probably accommodated Hare Krishnas sometime in its lifespan. The ultimate reason for its emergence remains unknown. Were the caretakers complaining about exceptionally grimy toilet seats? Was it a health risk, perhaps someone cracked their skull open as the misused bowl exacted revenge? Some mysteries will remain sans answer...


Religion does make people do strange things. In a quest to push the envelope, I actually happen to have a new religion in the works, just so that I can begin posting this variation of the instructional plaque all around Finland, and eventually, the world: